We are used to hearing about how the Internet of Things (IoT) will affect the future, promising to solve the biggest global crises, including food shortages, health epidemics and human safety. But what many people do not acknowledge is that, in a growing number of areas, IoT solutions are already in place and making a tangible difference. At this moment, an estimated 4.9 billion sensors are connected to the Internet, busy improving numerable areas of industry and human experience.
Last week, the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force released a rebuilding strategy, which aims to rebuild communities affected by Hurricane Sandy in ways that are “better able to withstand future storms and other risks posed by climate change.”
From an energy perspective, the main goal of these recommendations is to make the electrical grid smarter and more flexible. This effort would minimize power outages and fuel shortages in the event of similar emergency situations in the future.
Faced with likely power shortages for 2014 to 2016, Britain is turning to demand response and distributed generation. Forecasts claim the country’s generating reserve could fall to just 4%, putting half of all customers at risk of disconnection. Additional capacity is needed to cope with contingencies such as the unexpected unavailability of a major power station or a burst of cold weather.
Citing concerns over domestic shortages of rare earths and other materials critical to U.S. energy security, the Department of Energy is creating a research team led by Iowa’s Ames Laboratory to develop solutions.
It is no secret that the crux of India’s power problems lies in supply shortages.
Power plants, many of them aging and many of them fueled by coal, cannot keep up with the country’s upwardly mobile population. Even with soaring demand for air conditioning and televisions, nearly a third of the country’s 1.2-billion-strong population lives without power.
The power shortages that hit the country following the March 2011 disasters made better energy management an imperative and spawned efforts to create efficient “smart cities.”
Ideas for these environmentally friendly communities that employ cutting-edge technology have been flourishing — especially in the disaster-hit Tohoku region — as the government encourages businesses and municipalities to launch subsidized smart city recovery projects.
The triple tragedy that struck Japan in March 2011 is already remaking global energy markets. In the wake of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, public outrage over the meltdown delayed or derailed nuclear energy’s promised renaissance in many markets.
Yet if Japan’s tragedy hastened the demise of one energy technology, it may have jumpstarted another. In the year since, as Japan struggled to cope with crippling shortages of electric capacity, a handful of automakers have brought to market appliances that convert electric vehicle batteries into systems that can provide backup power to homes and help support the teetering grid.
More and more utilities are beginning to realize that building large power plants just to handle peak daily and seasonal demand is a very costly way of managing an electricity system. Existing electricity grids are typically a patchwork of local grids that are simultaneously inefficient, wasteful, and dysfunctional in that they often are unable, for example, to move electricity surpluses to areas of shortages. The U.S. electricity grid today resembles the roads and highways of the mid-twentieth century before the interstate highway system was built. What is needed today is the electricity equivalent of the interstate highway system.